"There is yet the matter of the succession of the throne, Your Majesty. Might I urge you to come to a decision sooner, rather than later?" asks Lord April.
"Might I say 'no'?" the queen replies, almost wistful.
The corner of April's mouth twitches with a wry smile. "Your Majesty says little else, at least to me. The land withers beneath your 'no,' my sister. Will you not yield to reason?"
After I finished reading the last new Bujold book (The Hallowed Hunt, which was all right but not as good as the first two books in the setting), I started Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It hasn't really caught my imagination, though. Instead, I've found myself re-reading old writings of my own, or that I've had a hand in. I started with Silver Scales, which I've read so often you'd think I'd have it memorized by now. Then I started browsing through the Mirari logs -- the quote above is from one of them.
Mirari began on Sinai MUCK in 2001, after Greywolf wrapped up his Mutant Chronicles game. I remember how it began: I was chatting with tuftears and kagetsume shortly after the MC game's conclusion. "We have to start a new campaign!" I said, panicky. "You two aren't involved in any Sinai* games so I'll never see you again if we don't do something else."
We talked about possible settings. I wanted to do something different, to do one of the kinds of stories that don't usually get done in RPGs. "Howabout a children's fantasy, like Narnia?" I suggested. "The PCs would be children in an ordinary American town, playing a make-believe game. And then something strange happens ...."
From the outset, tuftears and I were co-GMs, in charge of the story. When Lynx and I were first discussing the idea, we thought of it as a short story. "Six to eight logs", I said.
The game went on for two years and one hundred seventy-six sessions.
Our PCs were kagetsume (playing Thomas Winthrope), brennabat (as Alice Westfield), and boingdragon (Agatha Cunningham). As the story progressed, we pulled various other friends into it. jordangreywolf GM'd a significant chunk of the sessions. octantis and minor_architect were drafted to play NPCs.
It was an awesome and exhausting undertaking. It's one of the best campaigns I've ever been involved with. Looking back at it, I am impressed all over again by the coherency of the story. The way early threads were carried through from the first sessions to the final ones. The RPG didn't follow a script -- it couldn't. By the very design of the game, the players were continually messing with the story. It could've gone differently at so many points. And if it had -- it still would've been awesome, I think. It had all the elements that make an ongoing, multi-GM campaign so much richer than a solo venture. So many ideas brought to the table by so many people, threads started by one GM and re-used by another.
Usually continuity of this sort is a blessing and a curse: someone comes up with a great idea and the story is so much better for it that you can't imagine telling it without that. (How could we have managed the climax for Mirari without Sabrina and Max?) And then there are those clunker ideas that seemed good at the time, but that afterwards you wish you could bury without a trace due to the unforseen and undesired implications they have. Maybe there were some of the latter in Mirari -- surely we can't have gone through 176 sessions without making some mistakes -- but I can't remember them.
Mirari went through some lengthy hiatuses over those two years, which were almost entirely my fault. I remember struggling against burnout, against uncertainties about how we would pull the game off. Reluctant to continue with the project, but refusing to let it go out of my hands and be carried on by the others.
But in the end, I did see it through.
And now, three years later, I am so glad I did. I've started other online games never were finished -- two that spring immediately to mind are Rory's story and Rasheeka's, both in the Sinai setting -- and when I look back at those logs, I find myself longing and regretful. Impressed by what's there and wishing there were more. "I wish I'd finished this," I think. "I wonder how it would have ended?"
With Mirari, I can re-read the ending and sigh with contentment. I know how it ended.
Thanks again, to my fellow GMs and my players, for being so patient with me when I dragged my feet, and for creating something so wonderful that I can look back on it three years later and think, "Wow."
* Sinai MUCK is less like a traditional MUCK and more like a handy tool for allowing participants to write interactive stories. The place is set up so that all participants can "spoof" their contributions (thus eliminating the awkward 'every paragraph begins with a name' structure of typical MUCK logs), and there are "cambots" which parse out out-of-character conversations, so the logs can be easily retrieved as just the story. While the majority of the logs run on the MUCK are set in the "Sinai" universe, a number of campaigns in other settings have been run on the MUCK.